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The Beginner's Photography Guide, 2nd Edition Paperback – May 10, 2016
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The biggest issues I had with the book were that it:
1. doesn't always define or explain what something is before talking about it, leaving beginners confused. Explanations will then be found LATER in the book, which is strange. It's as if they didn't have this proofread by a beginner, but only by photographers who already knew all this information, so it didn't occur to any of them that you need to explain what a word or term means/indicates before using it extensively, not AFTER using it extensively.
For example: On pages 102-103, focal lengths are discussed. The differences between wide-angle focal length lenses, standard focal length lenses, telephoto focal length lenses, and macro focal length lenses are compared. He goes into when a photographer would want to use each of these 4 lenses, and their differences. The author also briefly talks about prime lenses, explaining that they have a "fixed focal length." This is all great, except that this information isn't something I can fully incorporate and understand until I know what focal length means. Sure, I could memorize all these facts, like that a wide-angle focal length lens is great for x, y, and z situations, but why would you want to do that when it's intuitive which one you should use if you understood what focal length actually was? The page following these 2 pages, page 104, is titled "What is focal length?"
That's just backwards. After struggling to fully grasp everything on page 102-103, I gave up, and turned the page, relieved but also exasperated to see that the author did define focal length... after telling us all this other information about it. After reading that, the previous pages about when you should use different focal lengths was obvious, and became something you definitely wouldn't have to memorize if you remembered learning about lenses and light from physics class.
2. Some things were ambiguous - even after reading it numerous times.
This was probably one of the more aggravating issues for me. I would think that I understood what the author was trying to say, but I couldn't be sure because the explanation was ambiguous or lacking somehow. I'd have to resort to another photography book or to googling. I should also say, I watched a full craft photography course, and about 1/3 of a photography 101 course on Lynda.com BEFORE reading this book, so I was a bit more prepared than an "actual" beginner - despite this, I still found this book rather difficult, and I don't consider myself a stupid person. Again, it's like they didn't have the book looked at by a complete beginner to photography before publishing it.
I've been reading this book starting from page 1. I'm nearly done with it (on page 142 at the moment) but I already have a list of about 10+ things that just weren't clear (which is not great.) Some of these were very quickly resolved by glancing at other photography books for beginners that explained it much more simply, and concisely, which was a surprise to me because those books had a lower overall rating on Amazon compared to this one. Referring to my camera's manual sometimes helped too, but the whole point of getting a photography book for beginners was so I wouldn't have to read something as dry and overwhelming (in amount of information) as the manual.
One thing I'm still trying to figure out is about automatic exposure bracketing on page 82.
The author mentions that automatic exposure bracketing is a solution to the problem of balancing how long it takes to asses a shot's histogram to get the right exposure, and how long you have to capture a photo a potentially fleeting moment. Then he launches into how to use automatic exposure bracketing (AEB) What AEB actually is is isn't fully explained. In his instructions on how to use AEB, in the very last step - step 6 - he tells you what AEB does (it takes multiple shots at different exposures.) Okay, as a beginner who doesn't know what AEB is (because this beginner's guide isn't defining terms that a beginner doesn't know) it's ambiguous what the author is trying to tell me. Am I supposed to look at those 3 shots and then figure out what the best exposure is? Probably not because the next thing on that page after the last step (and also the last thing on the 2 pages about AEB) he says that when they opened the images on the computer, they chose one of the shots they took. Okay, that left me wondering - if you don't have time to check a histogram to figure out what exposure you need before the moment passes, how in the world do you have enough time to upload photos from your camera to your computer, then pick one out? Especially when you're out in the field shooting. How often do you bring your computer? I concluded it must not be the case that that's what AEB is for, but not knowing what AEB is, I couldn't be sure, and frustratingly, you're not told what it is. I've yet to really figure out what it is (I figure I'll eventually get to it on one of my Lynda photography courses, or I'll look for an explanation on Youtube) but my guess is that it's a feature that allows you to take multiple photos in a variety of exposures, and you pick the best one. What confuses me is whether or not the author is implying that in situations like he proposed (where you don't have time to check the histogram), that you just have to use AEB and take 3 photos, meaning you'll eat through your memory card 3 times as fast and have 3 times less available space. I think if the author took steps to ensure that there was no ambiguity, or had an actual beginner proofread this page, frustrating situations like this wouldn't arise.
This is just one of a few confusing things. Another is using gray cards, which the author tries to explain on page 74-75. In step 4 of how to use gray cards, the author states "Use the exposure scale [to assess exposure.]" This really left me puzzled. How? Does the camera tell me if it's overexposed or underexposed? Or is that assessment something I have to determine myself? And how would I do it? Is it by comparing the photo of the gray card to the actual gray card? WHAT IS A GRAY CARD? (Are you seeing a theme here? Hint: lack of clear definition of terms being used, yet again) Are gray cards standardized? Or can I use anything that has a uniform gray color? I don't have a gray card, otherwise I'd go out and try it on my computer, or I could spend time looking it up in other books or in other resources, but I really, really shouldn't have to after plopping down $20 for a book that's supposed to be for beginners. It's on my list of things in this book that confused me.
Not a standalone guide. Because terms are used before they're defined, and because some things are ambiguous, a true beginner to photography may need to google what the author means, refer to another photography for beginners book, or ask a friend versed in photography. Had I known this beforehand, I'd have considered starting with another book.